Title: Wearing and Tearing
Characters: Dean, John
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes
Spoilers: None. Pre-series
Summary: With Sam at school, John and Dean must find a way to connect and survive. When John is hurt on a hunt, Dean is forced to pick up the pieces. However, when ghosts threaten to take Dean down, it's up to his father to keep him from fading.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Story title from Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
A/N: Those of you who’ve read my stories before know that I stake no claim in the medical community. However, that said, I have been a patient, and I have been a care-taker, and I have done online research on the mess I’ve gotten these two into. I hope you can allow for some leniency in healing for the sake of the story. Oh, and Brinnon, WA, is a real place; I’ve taken liberties with its economic situation and layout. I think that’s it. For now.
Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go by any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sam was hiding.
He always did this, right when Dad needed to go now, Dean, we need to go. And Dean was always ready to go; he’d be on Dad’s six if it weren’t for the fact that Sam was hiding. It’s not as if there were many places to hide—usually Sam’s would be in a closet, or under the bed.
He liked to be found. Dean knew by the way Sam’s cat-like eyes lit up, crinkling around the corners, his voice squealing in little-kid delight when Dean snaked an arm into the closet or under the bed and grabbed for Sam’s body, that he liked to be found.
It’s not the hiding—it’s the fact that Dean always searched for him. Dean always went after him. Dean always found him.
“Gonna find you…”
He thought he knew where Sam was going to be, but when he dropped to his knees and ducked his head under the bed, the only thing he saw was the sad, shriveled body of a dead box turtle. Drawing back in revulsion, Dean stood and turned, searching for the closet door.
He felt sure that Sam would be in the closet, crouched down in the corner, legs tucked up to his chin, eyes peering out beneath shaggy bangs. Those eyes that could gut Dean while simultaneously pissing him off. Those eyes that were all Sam.
But he couldn’t find the closet door. They’d stayed in so many rooms, so many different set-ups, that he’d forgotten where the closet was.
“Gonna find you, Sammy…”
He hurried from the room with the bed and found himself in another room with a bed. On the other side of that room was a door, which had to be the closet, he reasoned. Striding across the room, knowing Sam wasn’t under the bed with the dead turtle, he reached for the knob and pulled it open, stepping across the threshold into another room with a bed.
His heart began to pound, something dark and heavy seeping into his bones.
Stop hiding… Dad’s ready to go, you need to come back now.
“Sam, come back. Now!”
This room had no doors.
Only white walls, white floor, white blanket covering a white bed.
Maybe Sam was under this bed; maybe he’d just looked in the wrong place. He dropped to his knees, suddenly truly afraid. He never had to look so hard for Sam before. His hand felt too heavy—as if it wasn’t really a part of him—as he reached for the blanket to pull it away from the frame. He ducked his head slowly to peer beneath the bed.
Nothing but inky black, contrasting so sharply with the white of the room that it felt as though it were alive. Dean stared, trying to see something—anything—in the black. He didn’t blink, he didn’t breathe.
He just stared.
A hand reached out from the black, grabbing his shirt and pulling him forward. Dean yelped, jerking back, scrambling away. The hand held on and as he backed away, the hand grew an arm and a shoulder and a neck and a head and a face.
His father’s face, words tearing from him heavy with accusation.
With a ragged gasp that licked his lungs with liquid fire, Dean opened his eyes, sweat chilling his body. He felt jolted. As if he’d been wrenched into the present from a coveted world. He blinked, rapidly at first, then with a slow, vision-clearing motion that managed to bring his surroundings into focus. His head was a jumble of puzzle pieces—cut-up images of rooms with doors overlapped with the too-sharp reflections of the ocean, the beach, and blood.
Too much blood.
He took a shallow, shaky breath, feeling the tight tug of muted pain at his side. His body hurt; there wasn’t a joint that didn’t ache. He was profoundly tired—too tired to put the mixed up pieces in his head back together. He knew that he had to form the picture; slide it together to see where he’d been if he had any hope of deciphering what to do next.
First, though, he needed to figure out where the hell he was. Because all he could see was white. White walls. White sheets. White floor.
Something was protruding from the back of his right hand. It pinched when he shifted. His mouth was dry. His body felt both weightless and pinned down; as if he were coming off an easy buzz. From a distance, he heard a tinny, intercom-enhanced voice calling for a Doctor Morgan.
Why was he in the hospital? Where were Sam and Dad? Why couldn’t he hear them, feel them nearby, see them peering back from the odd gloom of the too-white room? Looking from one side of the bed to the other, he carefully searched for an answer. For someone to fill in the gaps, put the pieces back together.
Someone to tell him why his side hurt so fucking much.
Dean pulled his lower lip in against his teeth, running the tip of his tongue over the chapped skin. The dryness in his mouth seemed to be enhanced by the waning of whatever they’d given him in an effort to mask the pain.
“Hey, there,” a soft voice called from his right.
He jerked in surprise, immediately regretting the motion when a wicked laugh of heat slipped under the cover of the drugs and ripped through his side.
“Oh, sorry,” the voice said again, stepping into his line of sight. “I thought you saw me.”
He took in dark green scrubs and short, white hair. He couldn’t clearly make out the person’s face, but he was able to tell that the voice belonged to a woman. He turned his head slowly, willing his vision to follow and not lag behind as it seemed to want to do.
“Where—” His dry throat seized around the end of the word and he closed his eyes, trying once more to wet his lips.
“Here,” the woman said, resting a cool hand on his bare arm. “Small sips.”
He opened his eyes and saw a straw extended from a Styrofoam cup directed at his mouth. Taking the plastic between his lips, he sipped several times.
Dean nodded, a feeling he wasn’t accustomed to digging talons into his heart: panic. Sam and Dad… Sam and Dad… Sam and Dad…
The drugs were wearing off rapidly. Pressure closed in around his eyes as his heart began to speed up, climbing his ribcage in an effort to escape.
“Thought you were going to sleep my shift away again, Steve.”
Dean looked to his left, seeing no one else in the room. He looked back at the nurse, trying to focus in on her face.
“You want some more water?”
“Yeah,” Dean croaked, trying to shift up higher in the bed. Being addressed by a name he didn’t recognize confused him further. They must’ve been on a hunt… It had obviously gone very bad…
Where the hell is Sam? If he was hurt, then Sam…
“Hang on, Steve,” the nurse said. “Let me help you with that.”
She pressed a button at the base of his bed and the top began to rise slowly. As his head came up, Dean felt as if his blood was sloshing inside his body, the churning focused specifically on his stomach. He hated the effects of pain medication; the benefits did not outweigh the anxiety and nausea that always hit him several minutes after he woke up.
“Can I get…” he swallowed, closing his eyes and laying his head back as his stomach clenched and sweat broke out on his upper lip. “Can I get something else for… for the pain?”
“Something… else?” the nurse asked.
“Somethin’… diff’rent…” Dean breathed, pressing his lips together. Anything but this… He’d rather feel the full extent of the pain than the nausea that resulted from the drug.
Within moments he felt a cool cloth across his forehead and something small and hard placed in his hands. He cracked one eye open and saw it was a pink, kidney-shaped bowl about the length of his forearm.
“Wassthis?” he slurred.
“Just in case,” the nurse said. “Hang in there. I’m getting you something for the nausea.”
Dean lay still, trying not to think, trying not to remember, simply breathing. After a bit he felt the distortive dizziness subside and was able to open his eyes. He kept himself still, waiting as he listened to the nurse adjust things on a beeping machine to his right, then felt her touch the IV port on his hand.
“There,” she said finally. “Changed up your medication. You should be able to tolerate this better than the morphine. Feeling any better, Steve?”
“Why d’you keep… calling me Steve?” Dean asked.
He heard her pick something up and turned his head carefully to see that she was holding a clipboard, frowning at the contents.
“Steve Perry,” she read. “Arrived yesterday, early morning. Collapsed in the ER.”
With that, memory returned in a rush so fierce he nearly gasped. Thoughts almost fully formed crashed against each other, the end of one eating into the beginning of another as his mind scrambled through confusion to orient him into the now.
Dad Sam didn’t die he’s at school you’re not taking him I’m your child not a bad plan gonna turn you into a pair of boots hang in there Dad need to use your phone…
“Looks like they got your name from a business card in your jacket. Card said you’re a… talent scout. What sort of talent? Acting?”
Finally remembering, Dean closed his eyes. He hadn’t used that alias in months. He purposely hadn’t had ID on him, but he hadn’t thought to clean out the pockets of the old Carhart jacket he’d been wearing. Usually, Sam was the one to wear that jacket; Dean wore the old leather one he’d permanently borrowed from his Dad.
But with Sam gone…
“I borrowed the jacket,” he said, looking up at the nurse. “My name’s not Steve. I don’t know where that card came from.”
“Oh!” The nurse’s laugh was good-natured. “Well, what can I call you then?”
“Hi, Dean,” she said. “I’m Caroline.”
He found a smile hidden somewhere in his fog of discomfort. “Hey, Caroline,” he said as she began to wrap a blood pressure cuff around his bicep. “How’s my dad?”
“Your dad?” Caroline asked as she pressed a button on one of the machines to his right and he felt the cuff tighten as it filled with air.
“The guy I came in with,” Dean continued. “Broken leg?”
Caroline charted some numbers, then pulled out a thermometer. “I’m sorry, Dean,” she said, “I don’t know about your dad. But I can find out for you.”
“Yeah, please,” Dean said. “You said I’ve been here since yesterday?”
She nodded, tucking a plastic sleeve over the tip of the thermometer. “Got here just as my shift started yesterday morning. You haven’t moved until now.”
“No one saw the guy I came in with?”
Caroline’s eyes softened. “I’m sorry. But I’ll find out, okay?”
“Okay. Then tell me when I can get out of here.”
Caroline’s eyebrows bounced up and Dean saw her mouth quirk. As she leaned forward to place the thermometer between his lips, he caught a light whiff of perfume. He looked back up at Caroline’s time-tested face. The scent made her suddenly seem younger than he’d first thought.
“Let me get your doctor first,” Caroline replied as she peered at his temperature, then wrote another number down on his chart. “You’ve been unconscious for the better part of two days. You’re not going to be leaving here anytime soon.”
“Unless I sign myself out,” Dean argued, knowing it was possible.
He’d only been in the hospital two other times since he began hunting with his father. Once for a stab wound—courtesy of a fight with a werewolf—that John hadn’t been able to close on his own, and another time for pneumonia when he and Sam had been left to their own devices for a few days too long. Both times John had slipped him out before too many questions had been asked. Every other injury—and there had been several—had been repaired by his father or one of the hunters John trusted with his sons. This was the first time he’d landed in the hospital since he’d turned eighteen and would be able to sign himself out AMA.
“You just sit tight,” Caroline said, arching a thinly-plucked brow. “Let me get the doctor.”
She left, wheeling a high cart ahead of her. Dean lay back against the bed, shoving the white blanket down to his legs and lifting the loose-fitting hospital gown so that he could get a better look at his aching side. As he suspected from the itching, his torso had been wrapped tightly. He could make out colorful bruising peeking from the bottom and top of the bandages.
Seeing the catheter had him groaning with frustration. He might be willing to remove his own IV, but there was no way he was pulling that mother out. He dropped the gown just as the door opened and a dark-haired, tired-looking man walked in, followed by Caroline. He was dressed in street clothes, but had a stethoscope around his neck and a plastic hospital badge clipped to the collar of his Oxford shirt.
“So, Caroline tells me you want out of here,” the man said.
“Guess you’re the doctor, then,” Dean replied.
“Doctor Teller,” he confirmed, his wolf-like blue eyes skimming over Dean’s bruised face. “I treated you after you passed out in my ER yesterday.”
“Had a rough morning,” Dean replied, instinctively drawing away from the doctor’s cold, business-like tone.
“So it would seem,” Dr. Teller replied. Pulling out a pen light, the doctor leaned close and lifted Dean’s eyelid with a smooth, cool touch, flashing the light in one eye, then the other. Apparently satisfied with what he saw, he straightened and picked up Dean’s chart.
“Three cracked ribs—not broken, but enough bruising to make Tyson proud. Two-inch gash in your scalp, but MRI showed no bleeding on the brain and you don’t appear to be concussed. You were running a slight fever and showing signs of severe muscular exhaustion.”
Dr. Teller looked up from the chart, his eyes glittering as he regarded Dean, seemingly looking for an explanation.
“Told you,” Dean repeated, matching the doctor’s steely gaze. “It was a tough morning.”
“Uh-huh,” Dr. Teller nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
Dean lifted a brow. “How about you tell me how my dad is?”
At this, Dr. Teller’s eyebrows dropped. “Your dad?”
“Yeah,” Dean bit off. “Beard, dark hair, leg a mangled mess?”
Dr. Teller looked to his side. “Caroline?”
“I promised him I’d check,” Caroline replied.
“We’ll check,” Dr. Teller repeated.
“I’m not deaf,” Dean shot back. Now that his nausea was controlled and he was more aware, he wanted desperately to get out of that bed and begin roaming the halls looking for his father himself. “So, when can I get out of here?”
“Did you hear anything I just told you?” Dr. Teller asked, narrowing his eyes.
“Yeah—you said I was banged up, but not dying,” Dean replied, unconsciously tightening his hands into fists.
“You’re what? Twenty-four? Twenty-five?”
“Twenty-two,” Dean replied.
Dr. Teller rested both hands at his waist. “Your body is showing signs of fatigue from a man twice your age. You’re wearing down, son. Whatever you’re doing, it’s going to shut off on you one day. The muscles along your ribcage are torn. Further abuse, any continued tearing, and those cracked bones are going to become fractured bones. Do you understand what that means?”
“I think I can figure it out,” Dean said, suppressing a wince.
“It means,” Dr. Teller continued, as if Dean hadn’t spoken, “that your body is wounded and needs time and rest to heal.”
“Neither of which I need to be here to do,” Dean pointed out. “So why don’t you get this tube outta me and find my dad.”
After a beat of silence, Dr. Teller shot a look at Caroline. “Get him the AMA papers. I’ll write up a script for Zithromax and Lortab. Make sure he fills them before he leaves.”
“What’s—” Dean started.
“You had some fluid in your lungs, kid,” Dr. Teller said, pulling out a small prescription pad and scribbling on it. “The Zithromax is an antibiotic that should help hold off a respiratory infection. The Lortab—“
“Yeah, I know what that is,” Dean interrupted.
Dr. Teller glanced his way. “I bet you do,” he muttered, then handed the prescriptions to Caroline. “Have him get these filled. I mean it.”
“Okay,” Caroline nodded. “About his name—”
“Oh, right,” Dr. Teller turned to face Dean as if just remembering there was still a patient in the room.
Dean raised an eyebrow and fanned the fingers of his left hand in a cocky wave. “Still here.”
“I understand the name on your chart is incorrect?”
Dean simply tilted his head.
Dr. Teller narrowed his eyes. “We need your name for insurance purposes.”
“Yeah, wouldn’t want you to not get paid,” Dean sassed. Before either of them could say anything he cut in with, “Find my dad and you’ll get your information.”
Dr. Teller’s mouth twitched with irritation and Dean stared back silently. Suddenly, the doctor leaned forward, one hand on the guardrail of the bed, the other on his hip.
“I don’t know what you’re into and I don’t care. You want to get back out there and kill yourself? Fine by me. Just make sure you finish the damn job before you come back to my ER.” Dr. Teller looked at Caroline once more. “Get him unhooked and get that paperwork finished.”
With that, the doctor turned and left the room, his attempt to slam the door thwarted by the pneumatic hinges. Dean blinked in surprise, then sat back against the bed, a modicum of respect for the man’s outburst settling like bemusement across his features.
“What a dick,” he muttered.
“I-I’m so sorry about that,” Caroline stammered. “Dr. Teller is… well, you’re not seeing the man we know.”
“Oh, yeah?” Dean commented. “He miss eating a small child for breakfast or something?”
Caroline winced. “He lost his daughter. About a month ago.”
“Oh,” Dean replied, deflated. “How?”
“She drowned,” Caroline said. “The police thought it was accidental—even though her…” she looked down and forced through thin lips, “…her eyes were missing when they found her body.”
“Oh, shit,” Dean muttered, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose.
Misinterpreting his curse, Caroline continued. “I know, it’s awful. There were three more after her. I saw on the news that they think it’s the work of a serial killer.”
It was, Dean thought. “Were the rest of the kids local?”
“Yeah,” Caroline nodded. “It’s so hard, you know? For a town this size.”
“Were they all… y’know, doctors’ kids?”
Caroline looked at him strangely. “Why do you ask?”
Dean blanked his features, turning carefully innocent eyes onto the nurse. “I’ve had some experience with serial killers,” he replied.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “No, just Annie. Cody Lawson’s and James Sutcliff’s parents are architects and Teresa Bowing’s father is a lawyer.”
Dean nodded, filing the information away to discuss with his father later. He’d never really been around for the aftermath. He’d seen the suffering of the action, found the source of the pain, and eliminated it. He’d never had to watch the victims pick up the pieces. It had been enough to see his dad shatter a little more each day they hunted evil without finding his mother’s killer.
As Caroline turned to leave, he caught her wrist. “Wait,” he said. “Can you, uh… will you cut me loose here?” He glanced down at his lap, the hospital gown hiding the catheter.
“You really think you can get up on your own?”
“Hell, yeah,” he replied, resisting the urge to squirm.
“Okay,” she nodded, pulling some latex gloves from a box on the wall. “Dean?”
“It’s not my place, but…”
Dean laid his head back, closing his eyes, and worked to move his mind away from what the nurse was about to do. “What is it?”
“Did… did this Sam person have anything to do with your experience with the serial killer?”
Dean opened his eyes, bringing his head up quickly, feeling the blood drain from his face and leave pinpricks of shock on his skin. “Sam?”
“You were dreaming a lot,” she explained, her eyes soft once more. “And you kept saying the name Sam. I just thought that… well, you sounded so… so sad. I thought maybe Sam had something to do with the serial killer.”
Dean swallowed, easing his head back, a heavy pounding replacing the tight feeling around his eyes. “Not in the way you mean,” he said, his strangled voice foreign in his ears. “Sam is my brother.”
“I see,” Caroline replied. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Dean sighed, closing his eyes again. “Let’s just get this over with.”
She finished removing the catheter and then capped his IV, telling him she’d remove it from his hand once the forms for his release had been completed.
He waited until Caroline had gathered her supplies and left the room before he swung his legs over the side of the bed, rolling slowly to his side and groaning as he pushed himself to a sitting position. When the world balanced itself once more, he stood, wrapping an arm around his middle, and shuffled to the bathroom. Each step seemed to shoot a jolt of electric pain from his hip to his teeth, hovering long enough along his left side to make him want to throw up.
Working to pull in slow breaths and not the quick gasps for air his body wanted to resort to, he passed the sink and headed for the toilet, ignoring his reflection in the mirror. He knew what he would see there: a weary fighter, a soldier without a war, a brother alone.
He finished his business, then splashed water onto his face awkwardly with one hand. By the time he returned to the bed he was trembling from exhaustion and the worry for his dad was like acid in his gut. He looked at the beige phone resting on the nightstand at the head of the bed and thought about what he should do.
Seeing his bag of clothes tucked under the foot of the bed, he sighed. He knew he wouldn’t be able to Bend over and pull it out. The idea caused bile to step up to the plate. He breathed out slowly to dispel the sudden return of nausea, then used his toes to fish out the bag and kicked it to the chair positioned next to the bed. Sitting down slowly, he allowed himself a low groan. There was no one to hear his weakness.
He whimpered slightly as the cold plastic of the chair shocked the back of his bare legs, then looked at the phone once more.
“Sammy, Dad’s hurt. I’m hurt. We’re falling apart without you,” he murmured, staring at the gray buttons on the face of the phone. “Come on back, okay?”
He picked up the receiver, pressing the earpiece against his forehead, feeling the skin on his knuckles stretch as he tightened his fist. His heart thudded painfully; he could feel it in his teeth, behind his eyes, at the base of his ears.
He knew he’d never ask his brother to come back. No matter how much he needed him, no matter how much Dad needed him, Sam needed this more. Sam needed his chance. And even if it killed him, Dean was going to give it to him.
Taking a shallow breath, Dean set the receiver back in the cradle with a trembling hand and looked down at the plastic bag filled with clothes.
“You’re going to be a bitch to put on,” he informed the bag. “And I bet you stink like dead turtle.”
“Think someone summoned it?”
“Maybe. Could be it hitched a ride with a fishing trolley. I don’t give a damn. All I know is, it’s here, and it’s killed four kids already.”
The Kappa was dead, but Dean’s gut was screaming at him that this was far from over. Brinnon, WA, still had an enemy. He just wasn’t sure it was the kind he knew how to kill.
John had been awake for hours.
Not just awake, but unable to sleep. Anesthesia had a strange effect on him. The moment he opened his eyes after surgery, he’d been hyper-alert, unable to turn off his mind, unable to calm down, unable to turn away from the one thought that continued to beat into him long after the Dean killed the Kappa.
He’d screwed up.
It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. But that didn’t make the knowledge any easier to swallow. He wasn’t even sure where he’d gone wrong; his memory was a horror-movie of images and pain, one thing cutting clear through the cacophony of failure: his son’s voice.
“Hang in there, Dad. I see her… just a bit further, okay?”
He’d heard the hurt in Dean’s voice. Remembered seeing the creature’s blow crash against his kid’s body with such force it had emptied the air from his own lungs. He knew that for all intents and purposes, Dean should be lying dead on that beach.
Because John had screwed up.
Yet here he was, in a hospital bed, machines beeping steadily around him, narcotics swimming happily through his blood stream, his leg suspended in a complicated-looking hammock, encased in a blue air cast. The pain he’d felt yesterday on that beach was a brittle memory; his leg was numb, his body warm, drugs making him comfortable. He was here because Dean had made sure to get him here. Dean had hauled his ass off that beach, despite an injury John knew had to have felt like heat-lightning jolting through his system.
He rubbed his face, muttering aloud, “Where the hell are you?”
He was used to being alone—had put himself in situations like this on more occasions than he cared to admit during his hunting career. But never when he didn’t know where his boy was—how his boy was. Never when one of the boys was hurt.
Closing his eyes, he tried to find Mary.
She was his solace when he was raw, when life laid him bare and the walls were closing in. Even eighteen years after her death, her face, her voice, hell, even the way she’d smelled could be summoned as a source of comfort. There were times, though, when pieces were missing. Moments that could fill in the blanks of her image were lost in the collage of experiences he’d survived over the years.
Whether it was the drugs, or the trauma, John found he couldn’t quite complete the picture of his wife. He saw her honey-colored hair, always long and hanging past her shoulders in a mass of natural waves and curls. He saw her eyes, green with a slight slant toward mischief.
But he couldn’t see her mouth. And it was her mouth he wanted. Her mouth smirking at him. Her mouth wrapping around his name. Her mouth pressed against his.
Gritting his teeth in frustration, John looked toward the blind-covered windows, a rush of impotent rage sweeping through him like a fever. He fumbled for the remote call box and pressed the ‘nurse’ sign.
After a moment a tired voice clicked on. “Yes?”
“Anytime one of you feels like doing your job, you’re welcome to come in here.”
“Do you need something, Mr. MacGillicuddy?”
“Yes, I fucking need something,” John snapped, irritation flushing his rage higher as he tried and failed to sit up straighter in the bed. “I need someone to get the hell in here and tell me where my kid is.”
“We are looking into it, sir,” the same tired voice replied. “Your nurse will be in to check on you in just a bit.”
John pushed the call box off of the bed and listened with perverse satisfaction as it clattered to the floor. He fumbled with the bed controls until he was sitting up straighter. He didn’t like not being able to feel his leg—not that he wanted to be in pain. He’d caught a glimpse of the mess the Kappa made of his shin and it wasn’t something he wanted to see again anytime soon.
But not being able to feel anything left him with a helpless lack of control. At least pain was something he could channel, use, focus. This nothing was taking away his grip.
Rein it in, Winchester! He heard the bark so loudly that he jumped in surprise, looking around him despite the fact that he knew the voice wasn’t real. You a pansy or what? What’s the first objective when in hostile territory?
John lifted a hand to his face, smoothing his palm over his wiry beard and sighing. “Control the situation and neutralize the threat.”
What is your threat?
John lifted his eyes to stare vacantly at his casted leg. “Losing Dean.”
He’d spent the better part of the night and most of the morning retracing his steps, finding lost pockets of time. He remembered stabbing the Kappa, pinning it to the ground. He remembered ordering Dean to burn the corpse. He remembered moments of the trek to the Impala, but then he lost track of his son. He woke to a confusion of lights and strange faces, pain and barking orders. An oxygen mask had been placed over his face and he’d lost more time.
Leaning his head back and staring at the ceiling, John resorted to his search for Mary. While Sam buried his nose in a book and Dean lost himself in music during the long drives between hunts or hide-outs, John talked with his wife. When he was alone he spoke to her aloud; when he was with his boys, they shared secret, whispered conversations in his head. She kept him sane.
But, he hadn’t spoken with her since he’d been struck with Sam’s declaration that he’d been accepted at Stanford—Stanford for Christ’s sake—and that he was leaving them to search out his own future.
“Mary,” he sighed, letting his eyes slip closed. “I lost Sam. I’m… I’m gonna lose them both. I can’t… I can’t fucking hold on…”
He’d developed a trick several years ago, the first time he’d not been able to fully picture Mary. He pulled up a memory—a specific memory—and she returned to him.
It was the moment they’d decided to become parents.
“What do you mean, you think you’re ready?”
Mary stood, her blonde hair trapped by a red bandana pulling the curls away from her face, one of his old Marine T-shirts knotted Beneath her breasts, exposing her flat stomach, and cut-off jeans hugging her slim hips. Her hands were splattered with the white—correction ecru—paint she was slathering on the hallway walls of their recently-purchased house.
“I mean, ready,” he said, turned on by the sight of her wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. “Y’know, to pull the goalie.”
“Oh, nice, John.”
“What?” He chuckled, shrugging innocently.
She dropped the paintbrush back into the bucket, resting her hands on her hips and leaving slim fingerprints on her shorts. “We just got this house. You just got into the business with Mike. You sure you’re ready to get into that?”
John stepped closer, reaching for her, but lowered his hands when she took a tense step back. “Isn’t this the same Mary Campbell that said she wanted a family? That wanted kids coming out of the woodwork?”
Mary arched an eyebrow. “No,” she shook her head and a curl fell loose from the knot at the back of her head. “This is Mary Winchester who hasn’t really gotten over the fact that she lost her whole family and is still trying to figure out how to be a wife.”
His throat tightening, John moved into her personal space, scooping her up against him before she had time to pull away. Her waist was so small he was able to touch his elbows. He loved how she fit him—like a piece of his puzzle.
“You haven’t lost your whole family,” he said softly. “You’ll always have me.”
“I know, John, but—“
“And I think,” he continued, interrupting her and drawing her eyes to his face, “that with your brains, and my beauty, we could make some pretty fantastic kids.”
As he’d known she would, Mary grinned. “Brains and beauty, huh?”
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “And you know,” he said softly, his lips on the crown on her head. “I can’t think of a better way to honor your parents than to name their grandkids after them.”
Mary ducked her head Beneath his chin. “Grandkids? How many are you planning to have?” Her voice was muffled against his chest.
“Well, we got four names to work with, right?”
Mary laughed against his throat.
“What do you say?” John prompted, rubbing his hand against the bare skin at the small of her back.
“I say,” she murmured, pressing her lips against his neck, “that goalie’s played his last game.”
John opened his eyes, jolted from his reverie to find Dean standing next to his bed. Relief surged through him like a wave, leaving him slightly dizzy.
“Dean?” His voice sounded rough, old to his ears. Too much whiskey and not enough rest had changed it from the voice of his memory into the voice of his reality. “Where have you been?”
He hadn’t meant for his words to sound accusatory, but he didn’t miss the quick flinch in Dean’s eyes as he stared down at him.
“I, uh… had a little trouble finding you,” Dean said, easing himself slowly into the stiff chair next to John’s bed. He was wearing his own jeans and boots, but his shirt had been replaced by an over-sized, long-sleeved scrub top and his jacket was missing. A wince slid across his bruised face as he settled.
“Turns out I took a header back in the ER yesterday—” Dean informed him, his words like hole-punches of sound.
“You okay?” John frowned. His son’s face was pale, his bruises standing out like paint on his skin.
Dean tossed him a casual grin and a brief lift of his shoulder. “Nothing I can’t handle. How about you?” His eyes traced John’s suspended leg.
“My leg’s busted,” John replied.
“Uh, yeah.” Dean lifted a brow. “That much I worked out on my own.”
“That bastard hit you pretty hard, Son,” John said softly, needing to know, not able to ask. Dean wouldn’t meet his eyes; that told John that he was hiding something.
“I’m okay, Dad,” Dean assured him. “Coupla cracked ribs, bruises.”
John narrowed his focus, waiting. He watched Dean pull in a shallow breath, then slide his eyes from John’s leg to his father’s eyes. They stared at each other almost a full minute as John tried to find an outlet for the jumble of worried words caught inside his heart.
“They towed the Impala,” Dean said suddenly.
Dean glanced down. “I left it in the entrance way when they, uh… came and got you.”
“You know where it is?”
Dean nodded. “I just gotta get a ride to the—” He broke off, his lips folding into a tight line as he pressed a hand against his side. His eyes fluttered closed and John watched anxiously as a line burrowed itself between his gathered eyebrows.
“’M okay,” he replied. “Just need a minute.”
John swallowed, wanting to will the nerve-blocking effect of his own pain medication to his son by virtue of osmosis. “They give you anything to take with you?” he asked, knowing the only reason Dean was sitting here now was because he’d insisted on leaving, against medical advice.
Dean nodded. “Some antibiotics—guess I have some crap in my lungs.”
“Jesus, don’t cough, kid,” John advised.
“Uh, yeah, thanks for the tip, Dad,” Dean lifted an eyebrow.
“What’d they give you for the pain?”
“Lortab,” Dean said.
“Good—you get sick on the other stuff,” John said softly, remembering with sudden clarity the many times he’d held his son, braced him, soothed him when he’d been younger. So very much younger.
“Don’t remind me,” Dean sighed. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll be ready to roll soon as you give the word.”
“I’m afraid that’s not going to be anytime soon,” said a deep, female voice from behind them.
John lifted his head, not missing the muted groan from Dean as he instinctively turned toward the voice. A regal-looking African American woman entered the room, a manila folder in her hands. She wore a white lab coat over a brilliantly colored orange and red dress, and instead of a stethoscope, a long gold chain hung around her neck.
She slid warm brown eyes from John to Dean then back.
“Hello, Mr. MacGillicuddy,” she said. “My name is Dr. Rice. I understand you were asking for assistance earlier. I apologize that it took us so long to get in here to help you.”
Her calm voice completely disarmed John and he swallowed his automatic retort. Dean caught his eye and mouthed MacGillicuddy? He shook his head once in response. Not now.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, clearing his throat. “I was, uh… trying to find my son.”
Dr. Rice looked at Dean, her eyes skimming him quickly, taking in his bruises and disheveled appearance, as if she was cataloging them for later use. “And have you found him?”
“Yes,” John nodded, offering no further explanation.
“Good,” she smiled. “How are you feeling?”
John shot a sideways glance at Dean, noting the way his boy watched his face, looking for the same truth the doctor requested. He’d made it a practice to never confess weakness of this magnitude in front of his boys—with very rare exceptions. He didn’t really see a way out of this, though.
“To be honest,” John said, looking toward his suspended leg. “I can’t feel much of anything.”
“Don’t be alarmed,” Dr. Rice replied. “That’s purposeful at this point. We gave you a local anesthesia that should wear off in another few hours. It was an extra precaution to help you gradually deal with the pain of such a compound fracture.”
“So, when can he get out of here, Doc?” Dean asked.
Dr. Rice smiled as if she’d been expecting this. “I’m thinking not for awhile.”
“Define awhile,” John demanded.
“Mr. MacGillicuddy—may I call you Elroy?”
“Why not,” John replied, ignoring Dean’s smirk.
“Elroy, your leg sustained a complete compound fracture of the tibia with an incomplete fracture of the fibula. Do you understand what this means?” Her gaze took them both in.
“Got a pretty good idea,” John and Dean replied in unison.
“I was able to set the fibula, but your tibia required assistance. I inserted a titanium band and three screws to mend the bone.”
John swallowed. Dean remained silent.
“You will need to keep this leg elevated—sustaining no weight—for at least a week, possibly ten days. We will need access to the wound to check for infection. Infection is especially dangerous in bones, due to their limited blood flow, so we’ve put you on Ciprofloxacin. Do you have any allergies I should be aware of?”
“No,” John replied, dropping his head back, but keeping his eyes on the doctor.
“Once you are ambulatory, you will require some physical therapy to remind your muscles how they should obey.”
John felt his heart begin to thud heavily in his chest, claustrophobia squeezing him like a giant fist. In his periphery, he caught Dean gingerly rubbing his side. The kid’s entire being was focused on the doctor; John was willing to bet Dean was unaware of this tale-tell sign of pain.
“So… how long until we can travel again?” Dean asked, a note of apprehension chased by hope lingering on the edges of his words.
Dr. Rice looked at him, then back at John. “You won’t be going anywhere for at least six weeks, and that’s being very optimistic.”
The Winchesters were silent. Letting them have a moment, Dr. Rice put down John’s file and moved to his suspended leg. “While I’m here, I’ll take a peek at your wound.”
John watched as she carefully pulled the Velcro bindings on the air cast free, exposing a clean patch of gauze about four inches long and two inches wide. Pulling up the tape, she peered at the stitches, then replaced the bandage with a nod.
“Everything looks good here, so far,” she said as she reassembled the air cast. “I’ll send your nurse in to take your vitals. Do you need anything else?”
John simply shook his head. When Dr. Rice looked at Dean, he muttered, “I’m good.”
“You should get some rest,” Dr. Rice told Dean. “You won’t be any good to your father if you end up in here, too.”
“Right, doc,” Dean nodded, his voice a hollow echo of its usual sass.
The doctor left and John closed his eyes.
Dean didn’t say anything for a moment and John turned his head to look at him. “What is it?”
Dean was staring at his hands, which lay open, palms up, in his lap. “Just…” His voice trailed off and John waited, too tired to fight, too wired to rest.
“I was thinking I’d call Sam.”
John let the sentence lay between them, words falling apart as the letters dropped away. The idea of contact with Sam was so enticing it was painful. He knew Dean needed to do this, wanted to offer him that comfort, but couldn’t bring himself to agree. Not yet. Not now.
“You need to get that car out of the impound lot before they see what’s in the trunk,” he said in lieu of addressing the actual issue at hand.
Dean pursed his lips, nodding as in agreement to a silent argument, then lifted his eyes to meet John’s. “Yep,” he replied. “Figure I’ll add some weeks to our stay at that motel.”
John grimaced. “Might be a problem.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean lifted a brow. “How so?”
John looked away. “I, uh… I put the room on MacGillicuddy’s card,” he said, referring to the alias as though it was an actual person, which, in his mind, it was. Elroy MacGillicuddy and his two sons. On a road trip to see America. “There’s not a lot of room on it.”
“What’d you do that for?” Dean asked.
John looked over at him sharply. “Because we should have killed that fucking Kappa and been gone, that’s why!”
Dean seemed to sink a bit in the chair, his face closing off, any pain that was simmering in his eyes evaporating as if he’d flipped a switch inside. “I don’t think the hunt’s over, Dad.”
“What are you talking about?” John demanded, the rage from before circling him like a buzzard ready to feast.
“My doc from the ER—his girl was the first one to be killed.”
“So,” Dean continued patiently. “One was a lawyer’s kid, the other two sets of parents were architects.”
“What’s your point, Dean?”
“I still say someone summoned that thing, Dad,” Dean insisted, his eyes flinty. “Not to go after the kids, but to go after the parents. I mean, think about it,” he continued, warming to his topic, “those are all jobs that make some pretty good bank, right? What if there’s something that connects the parents?”
John looked down, conceding the point. “Still… what does it matter?” He asked. “The Kappa’s dead.”
“Yeah, but…” Dean said softly. “What if it’s not over?”
John shot him a look. “You’re in no shape to hunt.”
Dean lifted a brow. “Hello kettle. I’m pot. You’re black.”
“Watch your tone, boy,” John grumbled, hearing the throat-clearing of the drill Sergeant in his mind. “I’m just saying… take it easy. I need you ready when I get out of here. Not running off half-cocked after some… some idea.”
“I’ll be fully-cocked,” Dean said, pushing himself slowly to his feet. John watched him clench his jaw and close his eyes briefly before balancing himself. “You want me to bring you anything?”
“Where are you going?”
The muscle in Dean’s jaw rolled as he tensed against another wave of pain. “To get the Impala. And then sweet talk the manager into letting us stay for awhile.”
“We could just… go somewhere else,” John said. They couldn’t change up cards; he didn’t have another in the same name.
“There isn’t anywhere else,” Dean sighed. “Not close to the hospital anyway. And I’m…”
Tired, John finished for him. His boy was tired. It radiated from him.
“No, you’re right,” John said. “Makes the most sense if we stay there.”
“I’ll be back,” Dean said, heading for the door. “Might not be until tomorrow morning, though,” he amended, a hand on his ribs.
“Dean,” John called, waiting until Dean turned. As his son looked at him, his large eyes shadowed, he felt his words leave him, emotion surging in to take their place. “Never mind,” he said tightly, then looked away, not allowing himself to relax until he heard the door click shut behind Dean.
“It would only be for a few more weeks,” Dean lied. “Just until my dad gets out of the hospital.”
“How did you say he was hurt again?” Mr. Glover, the motel manager, asked. He warily regarded Dean’s hospital garb and bruised face as though pain was contagious.
“We… ran into some kind of… creature,” Dean said, weariness invading his logic and jumbling his words. “On the beach.”
“That’s the Sergeant’s friend, Pop,” came a younger voice from behind the desk.
“Hush a minute, Aaron,” Mr. Glover waved a hand behind him.
Dean peered over Mr. Glover’s shoulder to see the kid he’d returned yesterday morning. He grimaced, uncertain if the fact that the kid recognized and remembered him would work in his favor.
“Let me run your card again,” Mr. Glover told Dean. “Shouldn’t be a problem as far as reservations go.”
“Uh, yeah,” Dean said, sliding a practiced smile across his features. This is where I could really use Sam and his Little-Boy-Lost face. “See, that’s the thing. We don’t have enough on that card… I was hoping that maybe you could… y’know, float us awhile?”
Mr. Glover’s face clouded. “I’d love to help you, Son, I would, but,” he glanced over his shoulder at Aaron. “I have my own family to consider.”
Dean nodded. “Right. I understand.”
He gripped the counter, wrapping an arm around his middle. He knew he was beginning to sway, but had to square away this final detail before he could allow himself to rest. The ride to the impound lot had beaten him up. The embrace of the Impala had been cold and unyielding, as if she were punishing him for leaving her behind.
If he could just get this last piece handled…
“Any way you could pay cash?” Mr. Glover was asking him.
“Cash?” he repeated, as if the word was foreign. He knew from the expression on Mr. Glover’s face that he was starting to visibly appear as bad as he was feeling. “I don’t… I don’t have any cash.”
“Well, if your pop’s gonna be at St. Luke’s for a bit, you could get a part-time job.”
“A job,” Dean said. “You hiring?”
Mr. Glover chuckled. “No, no. I’m not, but, well, I just heard from Alice down at the café that Gus Spencer is looking for people.”
“Gus Spencer,” Dean said, fully aware that he was repeating everything Mr. Glover said, but unable to hold onto the information otherwise. “You know how I can get a hold of him?”
“Sure,” Mr. Glover said. “I’ll write his number down. You… you okay, Son?”
“Just tired,” Dean lied, forcing himself to breathe shallowly as the pain in his side blossomed. “If you can spot me a day or two, I’ll get you some cash.”
“Sure,” Mr. Glover said again, concern evident on his face. “Why don’t you go rest. I’ll send Aaron down with some fresh towels and stuff in a few hours.”
“Okay, thanks. Oh, uh… what day is it?”
Mr. Glover’s look of concern downshifted immediately into worry. “It’s Friday, Son. The 5th of October.”
“Thanks,” Dean managed before turning away and stumbling toward the door.
The world started to fold in on him as he made his way down the awning-covered sidewalk toward their room. It took him three tries to fit the key into the door. He practically fell through the door, biting back a sob as his body protested the clumsy entrance.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered aloud, his voice hitching.
He closed the door behind him, dropping the key on the table just inside the door. He made his way to the kitchen sink, pulling out the bottle of Lortab pills Caroline had filled for him before he’d been free to find John. He popped one into his mouth, then cupped his hand under the faucet, gulping water and downing the pill.
The room was deafeningly quiet. He looked at the closed bedroom door that was John’s room. Crossing to it quickly, he opened the door, pushing it wide. For good measure, he dropped a pillow from the bed in front of the door to prop it open. Moving to the closet, he opened the door, peering into both corners.
He left John’s room and moved to his, regarding for a moment the untouched bed on the far side of the room. Two queens. Just like always. Propping his own door open, he inspected the closet, not truly exhaling until he was absolutely certain that he was alone in the room.
He sat carefully on the spare bed, his eyes resting on the jumbled mess of blankets and sheets wadded up on the bed he’d used, what, two? three? nights ago. A strange buzzing began in his ears. A hiss like an over-heated radiator. Or the static of a snow-filled TV screen at three a.m.
Standing, he crossed his room to the dresser that covered one wall. This time he didn’t bite back the groan as his body berated him. It didn’t matter. No one was there to hear him. To worry about him. To judge him. No Dad. No Sam. He turned on the radio, rolling the pad of his finger across the dial until he heard a vaguely familiar voice.
He leaned forward, resting his hands flat on either side of the radio, and hung his head. He let the music fill the room, fill him, offer him company in the loneliness he couldn’t—he didn’t want to—stand.
“But everything changes if I could… turn back the years if you could… learn to forgive me then I could… learn to feel…”
“You’re such a punk, Sam,” he heard himself saying suddenly, his voice tight. “You just… you couldn’t take it, huh? Couldn’t handle our life? Had to go see how the other half lives?”
He pushed against the dresser, not allowing himself to grimace, not allowing the bleat of pain to slip out. He stared at himself in the mirror fixed to the wall in front of him.
“I don’t need you,” he said to his reflection. “I don’t need you, Sam. I don’t need to take care of you. I don’t need to worry about you. I got enough crap to deal with. I don’t need to figure out how to save your ass on top of everything else. I’m glad you’re gone.”
The song ended and another took its place. Dean turned up the volume, letting Floyd’s Childhood’s End tease back the quiet.
“I’m glad you’re gone,” he repeated, softer, staring at his own eyes, willing himself to believe the lie. “I’m glad you’re gone.”
He backed away from the dresser, leaving the radio on, unable to face the quiet of the room. The backs of his legs hit the untouched bed—Sam’s bed—and he sat heavily. Without bothering to undress or even remove his boots, he lay back, one arm wrapped around his side, and pulled the comforter around him, sinking into the blank canvass of dreamless sleep.Contined in Part 2B, here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/65490.html